Alcohol has typically been viewed as a harmless pastime. Drinking is a weekend or dinner activity to do with friends, family, and sometimes solo. It’s usually not until drinking becomes excessive and its resulting behaviors become problematic, do people start to understand the dangers of alcohol abuse. The real-world impact of alcohol abuse reaches far beyond financial costs. When a loved one has a problem with alcohol, it can affect their wellbeing. What’s worse, stopping use after the onset of alcohol dependency – also called alcohol use disorder (or AUD) – can actually be fatal. Here’s some critical information to know about how to treat alcohol withdrawal safely.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal and hangovers are the body’s way of responding to the toxins contained within alcohol and dehydration. Alcohol also changes the way the neurons in the brain fire and send electrical signals. Alcohol contains several compounds that are harmful to the human body. Withdrawal typically begins after an individual has stopped or reduced consumption of alcohol. This is why many people report feeling sick the morning after heavy drinking. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Heat Flashes
- Confusion or Delirium
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?
When referring to addiction treatment, whether to drugs or alcohol, it’s common to hear the term detox. What is detox, and is it something that must happen with medical supervision? The complexities of detoxification, or detox, are well documented. It refers to the process of letting the body remove drugs within it. Detox is often the first step in addressing AUD. Within a treatment setting, detox specifically manages symptoms of withdrawal stemming from addiction. Knowing how to treat alcohol withdrawal begins with speaking to addiction specialists.
Detox from drugs and alcohol can be dangerous. A medically assisted detox can reduce withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety. For alcohol treatment options and information, contact AspenRidge Recovery at (855) 281-5588.
Many have questions on how long the detox process takes. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary in the length of time it occurs. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually peak within 72 hours but effects can last as long as several weeks or even months. More severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can lead to significant and even life-threatening symptoms.
How Can I Tell How Severe My Alcohol Withdrawal is?
Knowing how severe an episode of alcohol withdrawal is can be difficult to ascertain. A common tool used by addiction experts to measure the severity of alcohol withdrawal is understand the level of tolerance. Tolerance refers to the ability of an individual to handle larger amounts of alcohol with little to no perceived effect on daily functioning. Generally, tolerance and dependency are determined by treatment experts using various assessments.
Who is More Likely to Struggle with Severe Alcohol Withdrawal?
Individuals who drink excessively for an extended period are prone to develop severe alcohol withdrawal episodes. For example, if excessive alcohol is consumed daily for several months, alcohol withdrawal may become life-threatening as the brain has learned to rely on alcohol to operate. Certain bodily functions may be impacted when ceasing, such as breathing issues, heart rate problems, motor skill effects, and delays in cognitive processing.
An occasional hangover is not often life-threatening but can be quite uncomfortable. Many severe cases of alcohol withdrawal may require medication-assisted treatments to safely navigate the process of withdrawal. These processes should always be overseen by medical supervision.
What Are Common Withdrawal Symptoms?
Not all withdrawal symptoms occur with extended and heavy use of alcohol. Shorter and less severe withdrawal symptoms are commonly referred to as “hangovers.” Hangovers can be very discomforting and can cause many problems. The majority of less severe withdrawal symptoms do not last more than 18 hours after a period of moderate to heavy drinking. Common less severe withdrawal symptoms include:
- Respiratory problems
- Memory problems
Heavy drinking depresses the central nervous system. When alcohol is withdrawn, the central nervous system can go into an unbalanced hyperactivity state or an “overdrive” state. This can cause the tremors and rapid heartbeat associated with hangovers. Many of the signs and symptoms of hangover overlap the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
What Are Severe Withdrawal Symptoms?
Severe alcohol withdrawal is highly dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Severe episodes of withdrawal can lead to long-term damage of the brain and nervous system leading, to future health concerns and even death. The dangers of alcohol withdrawal can grow exponentially. Long-term use of alcohol causes the body to need more alcohol to function properly. The concept of a growing dependence on alcohol is commonly referred to as alcohol tolerance. Tolerance can cause many severe cases of alcohol withdrawal which may not be treatable through home remedies or quitting “cold turkey.” Common severe and potentially long-term symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Liver failure
- Heart Failure
- Nerve damage
- Delirium Tremens
How to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal?
Managing alcohol withdrawal can be difficult as symptoms require the body to naturally heal from the toxins found in alcoholic beverages. Common ways to manage a minor alcohol withdrawal include:
However, as mentioned, it’s best to understand the severity of use and potential side effects to ensure safe treatment for AUD.
Is Treating a Hangover the Same for Severe Withdrawal?
No! Treating a severe withdrawal with traditional methods for an occasional hangover is not safe. Severe withdrawal can be life-threatening and requires more intensive treatments that allow the body and mind to heal from the effects of alcohol. Extensive withdrawal treatment methods are only used for severe and complicated cases of alcoholism as the body has become dependent on alcohol to operate involuntary bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate. Safe and effective treatments for severe alcohol withdrawal include:
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Intravenous hydration
- Ongoing rehabilitation services
What are Common Medication-Assistance Therapy Drugs for Alcohol Withdrawal?
One medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat alcoholism is naltrexone, sold under the brand name Vivitrol. While engaging in medication-assisted treatments for alcohol withdrawal, it is important to be continuously monitored by trained professionals. Professionals are able to dose the medication appropriately to avoid any potential for nervous system damage, kidney failure, or even death. Medication-assisted treatments are usually not self-administered and require an individual to receive the medication through inpatient treatments or by a medication-specific clinic.
How Can AspenRidge Help?
It’s easy to forget that alcohol is toxic to the human body whether or not it is consumed regularly. It’s critical to understand how dangerous excessive alcohol use can be and treat alcohol withdrawal if dependency is an issue. Expert treatment specialists at AspenRidge are here to assist with tailored treatment programs that safely manage the recovery process.
Certified clinicians at AspenRidge can aid at any stage of recovery. Since alcohol abuse and dependency vary in severity, our treatment specialists are well versed in identifying spectrum use and providing guidance for overcoming alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other problematic drinking habits. Our different levels of care provide a comprehensive approach to addressing dangerous alcohol consumption and underlying mental health effects that may exacerbate the issue. Our programs include:
- Partial Hospitalization Day Program (Day Program)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (5-Day IOP)
- Evening 5-Day IOP
- Outpatient Program
- Online Treatment
Don’t wait. Early intervention can prevent many of the diseases found in this list. Contact us today directly at (719) 259-1107. Our staff will verify insurance options and to explain treatment programs available at AspenRidge Recovery Centers.